A historian’s education in the ways of empire
Historians whose work spanned centuries, continents, and bookshelves
Our author reconsiders A.J.P. Taylor and the question his work provokes: Is history just one damned thing after another?
“Now, stretching over that empty sea, aground some fifty yards out, [lay] the incredible fleet from the other side of the globe, the rusty, creaking fleet that the old professor had been eyeing since morning. . . . He pressed his eye to the glass, and the first things he saw were arms. . . . Then he started to count. Calm and unhurried. But it was like trying to count all the trees in the forest, those arms raised high in the air, waving and shaking together, all outstretched toward the nearby shore. Scraggy branches, brown and black, quickened by a breath of hope. All bare, those fleshless Gandhi-arms. . . . thirty thousand creatures on a single ship!”
In 1945 the United States commanded a 40 percent share of the world economy; today its share is half that, and yet our military commitments have grown dramatically. This imbalance, which conforms to a classic historical pattern, threatens our security, both military and economic